Tag Archives: Wilbert Robinson


12 Sep

The Chicago Tribune baseball writer Hugh Fullerton was fond of saying:

“Once upon a time there was a baseball bug down in Cincinnati who figured out there were 11,297,424 possible plays in baseball.  This, of course, was counting only straight and combination plays and taking no account of the different kinds of fly hits and grounders, which all are different.  He proved it conclusively and the next day the team made one that wasn’t on the list.

“Every play, every throw, every hit is different.  That is why baseball is the national game, and there are freaks in the game that make even the case hardened regular sit up and yelp with surprise and joy.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

Fullerton made a career of telling stories about those plays; some might have even been true.

A few more of them:

“Philadelphia lost a hard luck game to Cleveland in the old twelve club league.  The score was close, Philadelphia had two men on base, and Ed Delehanty was at bat.

“He cracked a long drive across the left field fence—a sure home run.  The ball was going over the fence high in the air, when suddenly it changed its course, dropped straight down, hit the top of the fence and bounded back into the lot.

Ed Delahanty

Ed Delahanty

“The crowd, which had given up in despair, was astonished.  The Cleveland left fielder got the ball and, by a quick throw, cut down the runner at the plate and Delehanty was held at second.  The next men went out and Philadelphia was beaten.

“Investigation after the game proved that the ball had struck a telephone wire reading to a factory just outside the grounds.”

Tom Corcoran had one of the oddest baseball experiences in the history of the National League at the old Eastern Park grounds in Brooklyn years ago, in a game against Boston.  The game was played on the morning of Labor Day, and there had been a hard rain the night before.  In the early part of the game Corcoran, going after a ground ball, felt his foot slip and his ankle turn, and, half falling, he stopped the ball and then fell.  He turned to pick up the ball to throw out his man, and saw no ball—although there was a hole six inches across, into which his foot had plunged.  The runner, reaching first, stopped and saw Corcoran with his arm plunged to the elbow in the ground, and after hesitating a moment, he ran on down to second.

Tom Corcoran

Tom Corcoran

“Corcoran, meantime, had been thinking.  His fingers were clutched around the ball, and yet he waited, pretending to be groping for the ball.  The runner started on, and as he passed, Corcoran dragged the ball out and touched him out.”

“One of the funniest plays I ever witnessed was pulled off on the old Baltimore grounds along in 1896, and it was good-natured, happy Wilbert Robinson who made the blunder that resulted in the defeat of the Orioles when they might have won the game.

Wilbert robinson

Wilbert Robinson

“The struggle was between Chicago and Baltimore and it went into extra innings.  In the eleventh, with a Chicagoan on second Doctor Jimmy McJames made a wild pitch, the ball shooting crooked and bounding around back of the visitors bench with Robby in close pursuit.  The ball rolled back of the water cask and disappeared.  Robby made one frantic grab back of the cask, and then, straightening up, hurled a sponge full of water at McJames, who was covering the plate.  The Doctor grabbed it, and as the water flew all over him he tagged Jimmy Ryan…In spite of the fact that the play beat Baltimore, the crowd yelled with delight over it, and Robby, who had made the sponge throw as a joke when he found he could not get the ball in time, appeared as much pleased as if he had won the game.”


Lost Advertisements–“Kid” Gleason for Cat’s Paw Rubber Heels

22 Nov

cat'spawA 1920 advertisement featuring William “Kid” Gleason, manager of the defending American League Champion Chicago White Sox–the ad appeared in July, two months before the first grand jury was convened to investigate the 1919 World Series.

“It would take a long time to tell all the reasons why I like the Cat’s Paw Heels.  But there is this much about them, they give me more comfort than I could get from any other brand.”  William Gleason

Baseball Leaders Prefer Cat’s Paws

Cat’s Paw Rubber Heels are also the favorites of other leading managers and ball players in both leagues–Patrick J. Moran, Walter Johnson, John J. McGraw, Edward G. Barrow, James Burke, Miller Huggins, W.R. Johnston, Wilbert Robinson, Walter J. Maranville and many others who appreciate the comfort and protection which Cat’s Paw Rubber Heels give them.

“Remarkable Baseball Stunt”

15 Jan

In the 1890s, there was a “baseball puzzle” that was said to have confounded Baltimore Orioles catcher Wilbert Robinson for days.  How could a team hit two triples and four singles in an inning and not score a run?

His confusion probably says more about Robinson than the complexity of the puzzle.  The answer was the first two hitters tripled and were out trying to stretch them into home runs.  Three players hit singles to load the bases.  The fourth hitter singles, but the ball strikes a runner ending the inning.

Wilbert robinson

Wilbert Robinson

In 1912, a sportswriter in The Toronto Globe claimed that a similar inning had actually occurred in a minor league game in 1890.

The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times called it a “Remarkable baseball stunt.”

While there’s no proof the story isn’t apocryphal, both papers said it took place on May 30, 1890, in an Indiana League game and the members of the Anderson, Indiana team mentioned in the articles all did play for Anderson in 1890. (Although Baseball Reference doesn’t list statistics or rosters for the 1890 Indiana League, all the named players are confirmed as having played for that team in a variety of contemporaneous sources.)

According to the story Benjamin Ireland led off the inning with a triple.  With Ed Wiswell at the plate, the ball got away from the catcher, Ireland was out trying to score.  Wiswell tripled, but was tagged out trying to stretch the triple.  Rush Shumway followed with the third triple of the inning.

With Shumway on third Gene Derby bunted down the third base line that the third baseman waited to roll foul, “It stayed (fair) and (Derby) pulled up at second.  (Shumway) did not try to score.”

The fifth batter, Charles Faatz, also bunted.  The runners held as Faatz beat out the bunt.  Frank Fear was the next batter and “hit a vicious liner to right, but the ball struck Faatz on the arm.”

Three triples, two singles, no runs.

A remarkable inning.

A Really Bad Idea II

23 Oct

Last week I told you about Chicago Colts President Al Hart’s connection with the proposed rule to change the shape of the diamond.  He wasn’t the only baseball pioneer who considered adopting rule changes which would have completely changed the game.

William Henry “Harry” Wright, called by many “The Father of Baseball,” was among the most respected figures of baseball’s first two decades.  The Philadelphia Record described his importance:

 “Harry Wright has done more than any other man to bring baseball to its present high standing.”

Wright’s story has been told many times and in many places.  This lesser known story focuses on two rules changes he championed.

Harry Wright

After the 1893 season Wright’s contract was not renewed as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies he accepted the position of “Chief of Umpires” of the National League.  The Philadelphia Record reported on a number of rule changes he advocated, including this:

 “Harry Wright thinks that players should not be allowed to question an umpire’s decision during the progress of a game, or to speak to him while the ball is in play, and that he should have the power of taking out of the contest any player (or manager) who breaks the rule.”

While not necessarily a bad idea, if adopted Wright’s idea would have drastically changed the game for several generations of famous umpire baiters.

One other rule change Wright promoted, as reported by The Sporting Life, would certainly have been a bad idea:

 “(A)llowing a base runner to run on a fly ball instead of returning and registering at the base.”

While Wright’s idea never was seriously considered for incorporation into the rule book, it had advocates as late as 1899, four years after his death.

Washington Senators Manager Arthur Irwin endorsed the rule with this colorful description:

 “Uncertainty is the life of the game, and the more uncertain the uncertainty the higher does the interest key itself…for instance (John) McGraw, one of the most daring base runners in the league Is on first base with two men out, and a run needed to win the game (Wilbert) Robinson follows with a fly to center field, and at the stroke of the bat away scuds Mac. His get-away is the cue that brings the spectators to their feet.  ‘Will he score?  Can (Joe) Kelley field that ball home to cut him off at the plate?’ Around the runway fly the twinkling feet of the little Napoleon of the Orioles.   It’s a chase of life and death between Mac and the ball. Kelley swings the sphere on two bounds to Duke Farrell at the plate.  Mac slides into the rubber, and beats the throw by an abbreviated whisker.

“Can you imagine a more intense climax to a game of ball? Why, the game would be full of such play if the idea of running on a fly ball became a rule.  It would increase the base running, produce more plays in the field, and keep the outfielders almost as busy as the inner circle, when the bases were occupied.”

Of course Irwin failed to consider the scenario where the winning run is on third base and scores on a routine fly ball with two outs.

Arthur Irwin

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